Perry is 17 and on his way to Vietnam, a new place, a new life, a whole new world. He volunteered to serve his country. The main reason for this was because he wanted to escape his depressed and alcoholic mother who spent most of her salary on her drinking habit. Thinking of his home in Harlem, and his family, though, Perry has second thoughts.
His best friend, Peewee becomes instant friends with each other when they meet in the barracks. Peewee helps Perry by standing up for him during several disputes. The horridness of the war nearly overwhelms him. Death comes knocking at his door, day after day, night after night. He endures the same food every day, with little sleep and hordes of mosquitoes. Only the support of friends and the safety of his gun beside him comfort him. He knows what he wants - to go home.
Richie is wounded in a battle but unfortunately the wound is not bad enough to send him home. So he is transferred to a hospital. During the peaceful weeks spent recuperating, he begins to remember the joys of safety and gains a new sense of the horrors of war. When he is declared healthy and ordered to rejoin his unit, he wonders how he can possibly go back into combat and considers deserting the army. In the end, though, he rejoins his unit as ordered.
So he returns to the same hot, muggy place, and insanity...